“Because happiness is brief, and history is lasting, and in the end,” he says, “everyone wants to be remembered.”
“I saw an elephant in Paris.”
V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (Oct 2020) certainly received a lot of hype as its publication date approached. I saw ARCs of this book EVERYWHERE. It was one of Book of the Month’s October selections, and their adverts were on every media platform. (And BOTM folks received it before the publication date, which I suppose is a nice little bonus to the subscription. I am not a subscriber.) Described as the “Most anticipated book of 2020”, I had removed the book from my radar months ago. I frequently find myself horribly disappointed by over-hyped books, so I wasn’t going to bother. But something changed. Maybe it was FOMO. I’m not sure. But I placed the pre-order and waited.
And I am ever so glad I did. Is it my favorite book to come out of 2020? No. But it’s damn close, and that is certainly saying something.
The premise is relatively simple – a Faustian bargain is made and a young girl who is so afraid of missing out on life is granted immortality, but the devil is always in the details; Addie LaRue will live forever, but no one will remember her – she can’t even say her own name. It takes Addie centuries to adjust, but she learns to operate within the confines of the rules of the game the darkness designed. She steals what she needs, and spends years learning the cities she temporarily calls home. She leaves no footprints, but she can leave ideas.
In an argument with Luc, the green-eyed god who answered in the dark and granted her request, she claims they are nothing alike. “I am a muse, and you are a thief.” She uses her words as weapons, but it is nearly impossibly to hurt the devil. She doesn’t realize that he is both a muse and a thief, and so is she.
Their relationship, centuries in the making, is a slow burn that breathes fire and darkness and light, yes light, into the novel. Luc steals her name, and she gives him his; they each own the other. The artists and the poets, the lovers and the dreamers, turn to them both. She leaves stars in their eyes, the galaxy on her face appearing in their work over and over again. Timeless, they call her. He makes the bargains that realize the greatness. He puts her in their paths. He made her the muse; all the while, she thought she was winning.
When she meets Henry, the boy who remembers, she thinks she has a won. But he’s made his own deal, and he’s living on borrowed time. He, too, was a gift – after 300 years, Luc’s allowed her name to be spoken, to be written, to be remembered. Over the centuries, they’ve become nearly matched in the chess game they’ve been playing.
The issues I had with the book were minor. Henry’s chapters were an unnecessary distraction from what is and always was Addie’s story. His bargain and the ticking of his clock, as well her use of his hand to tell her story were unsurprising. The reader didn’t need to see his bargain; Addie’s response to learning of it after the reader long suspected it is certainly sufficient. Also, having Faust referenced, and not in a conversation between the two people who actually made a deal with the devil, was a bit too on the nose. Both of these “flaws” are extremely minor, and I find this rather a remarkable book.
Where it soars, however, is not in the plot or the history, but in the writing. V.E. Schwab’s use of language is positively delicious. It drips down your chin like a sun-ripened peach. It melts in your mouth like rich chocolate bonbons stolen from a lady’s bedside table. I could eat her words all day.